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Woodpeckers don’t play football: implications for novel brain protection devices using mild jugular compression
  1. James M Smoliga1,
  2. Lizhen Wang2,3
  1. 1 Department of Physical Therapy, High Point University, High Point, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2 Key Laboratory for Biomechanics and Mechanobiology of Ministry of Education, Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Biomedical Engineering, School of Biological Science and Medical Engineering, Beihang University, Beijing, China
  3. 3 The Wallace H Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr James M Smoliga, Department of Physical Therapy, High Point University, High Point NC 27268, USA; jsmoliga{at}highpoint.edu and Dr Lizhen Wang, Key Laboratory for Biomechanics and Mechanobiology of Ministry of Education, Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Biomedical Engineering, School of Biological Science and Medical Engineering, Beihang University, Beijing, China; lizhenwang{at}buaa.edu.cn

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As sports concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy have captured the media’s attention, sports organisations and athletes have become increasingly interested in novel approaches to reduce brain injury risk. One proposal is to protect the brain from within by decreasing brain ‘slosh’. This can supposedly be achieved by creating a ‘tighter fit’ of the brain within the skull.1 Woodpeckers are often cited as model organisms for achieving this,1 and one emerging device claims to replicate the woodpecker’s mechanism for protecting its brain.2 This device is a collar worn around the neck which compresses the jugular veins, known as the Q-collar or  Neuroshield (www.q30innovations.com and www.neuroshield.ca). Unfortunately, this woodpecker-inspired concept is misguided for numerous reasons (see online supplementary file 1 for additional references).

  1. Woodpeckers have multiple evolutionary adaptations to protect their brains. Computed tomography has confirmed that woodpeckers have numerous microstructural adaptations within the skull, including regionally specific alterations in trabecular bone morphology, which provide favourable mechanical properties.3 The woodpecker’s unique hyoid bone and tongue structure dissipate shock.3 4 Additionally, the woodpecker’s beak is highly specialised, with …

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